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August - 2007 - issue > Tech Training
Travails of training on SAP
Aritra Bhattacharya
Thursday, August 2, 2007
SAP professionals today have come to be associated with fat pay packets and lucrative job opportunities, thanks to a steady build-up in deployment of SAP across industry verticals over the past few years. In the current scenario, there is a huge shortage for SAP professionals in the country; while SAP and its partners train around 6000 candidates on an annual basis, close to eight or nine thousand get trained by unauthorized institutes dotting the major metros. In all, if one includes those trained in-house by SAP’s customers and business partners, the number of SAP professionals emerging from India annually could well cross 20,000, say sources in the company.

If you are among those who have been fascinated by the ‘SAP wave’, as a trainer at an unauthorized training center puts it, there are a few things you need to consider before taking the plunge into the course.

Where to train?
Where to train and at what cost? These are two questions that weigh on the candidates’ mind the most with regard to training on SAP.

An entry level course from the company’s authorized education partners (Siemens and Genovate, in case of India) costs Rs 2.5 lakhs (taxes extra), plus another Rs 25,000 when one sits for the certification test on completion of the five week training period. In case one fails to clear, he will need to fork out another Rs 25,000 for each subsequent attempt at the test. Anand Ekambaram, Director, SAP education services, justifies the high fees saying “There is a lot of investment that goes into preparing the course material; besides those who train at designated centers are given access to servers in Germany.”

To come around the price barrier, and also reach out to small towns and semi-urban regions, SAP recently launched e-learning modules. Spread over anything between 5 weeks to three months, “as the candidate spaces it out”, an entry-level e-learning module costs Rs. 1.2 lakhs and is rolled out through designated partners. But even this price tag seems high in comparison to rates charged by the numerous ‘unauthorized’ institutes around the town, which is around Rs. 15,000-18,000.

While those trained by the unauthorized institutions are not certified as SAP professionals, the industry on the whole does not seem to be much amused by the certification. Though some firms have an understanding with SAP to recruit only from authorized training institutes, most organizations do not mind employing uncertified professionals. Praveen Thomas, HR Manager at Bristlecone says “Ideally, it would be good to have professionals with the Siemens/Genovate certification. But we do not insist on it, given the high demand. A few years experience is more important than a certification.” He adds that there is no difference between the salary that is offered to a candidate trained by Siemens and that paid to one trained at any of the unauthorized centers.

Why, then, should one consider undergoing training for a hefty fee of Rs. 3 lakh when it apparently gives no edge to the candidates? “Candidates trained by us have a complete understanding of the SAP product, and are trained in implementation; while this may not make itself apparent at the onset, some months down the line, it does make a difference,” says Ekambaram.

Despite the aforementioned “difference” many candidates like Rakesh Bhasy, a fresher who recently completed the ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) module from Bangalore-based SAPinc Technologies, prefer to enroll at “unauthorized” institutes. Most of these institutes offer post-training placements, and candidates find value in gaining some experience in smaller firms where they are placed before moving onto the big platform. In the meanwhile, those who are particular about certification, there is the option of sitting for certification tests after gaining a couple of years’ experience working on SAP, though this is not encouraged by SAP education services, according to Ekambaram.

What to study?
Once the question of where to study is ironed out, a more important one crops up, especially since many training centers have seen a spurt in the number of fresh graduates joining the modules. Says Rajeev Agarwala, General Manager, Siemens Information Systems, “Only those with two to three years of functional experience in a specific field, be it HR or finance are teachable.” Real value of undertaking a SAP module is obtained only when the candidate has already had a fair amount of exposure to the way things work in his/her domain. The candidate can then effectively leverage experience to apply skills learnt during the training process. It is therefore ‘not advisable’ for young graduates straight out of college to undertake SAP training.

Such candidates can take up the ABAP module, which deals with programming, “Unless of course one has substantial programming skills,” clarifies Ekambaram. Those with a couple of years’ systems and database exposure should look at the SAP Basis program, and those looking to work in the SME segment should take up the Business One program. For those already exposed to SAP and its implementation, a domain specific advanced program would be apt (see table).

Return on investment
While it is easy to say that SAP professionals take home a fat pay packet, how much one actually earns depends on several factors including the specific modules of specialization as well as market demand and supply. “Presently, for example, a SAP HR (Human Resources) consultant may be in the lower pay scale compared to a SAP B1 (Business One) professional for whom the demand is higher,” says Ekambaram. Sources reveal that professionals specializing in the SAP Business One (the application customized for SMEs) are most in demand now and earn anywhere between a whopping Rs. 40,000 to 50,000 per month right on completing the course, with the figure increasing manifold through the years.

There is also a difference between working for an IT consulting company and in an end-user environment, and compensation also depends on the amount of travel required and the country of work. After having undertaken the training, a consultant could choose to continue to specialize and hone his skills as a SAP subject matter expert, take up managerial responsibilities, or even lead a team and work his way up to senior business or application management positions.

Many unauthorized institutes take the candidates for a ride and do not provide sound training, even after collecting fairly high fees. This is a fundamental thing the candidates need to be wary of. A good idea for SAP to counter this problem, it appears, is to authorize more institutes and offer courses at lower prices. Ekambaram argues that SAP is too complex for this. For the benefit of prospective trainees (and customers) however, the company is working on three levels of certification—associate consultant, SAP professional, and Master certification, based on the expertise of a candidate. Whatever the case, with the constant rise in demand for SAP professionals, the chances for those who have learnt the ropes are enticing.

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